In August, we will attend the freshly started Gothenburg Row. During the cultural feast in Gothenburg, lots of traditional row boats will tour around the inner city canal.
Meet the owner of Götheborg of Sweden
Meet the owner and a big heart behind Götheborg of Sweden, the world’s largest ocean-going wooden sailing ship. Greencarrier Group, a logistics company founded in Gothenburg, acquired Götheborg in February 2021. It was a purchase decision that came from the heart, rather than from rational business thinking, says Stefan Björk, founder and owner of Greencarrier Group and Götheborg of Sweden.
Photo: Linda Åkerberg.
Passion and enthusiasm
The Greencarrier Group owns several businesses in logistics and transportation, and one of the companies under its umbrella is The Swedish East India Company (Svenska Ostindiska Companiet), which hails back to the 18th century. SOIC and Götheborg were both purchased in 2021, but Greencarrier’s involvement with the organisation and the ship goes far back. When you speak to Stefan Björk about Götheborg of Sweden it is clear that he has a lot of enthusiasm for the ship and what she represents. Buying it is not the smartest business decision he’s made, he says, but it’s by far the most enjoyable, and he wishes that more businesses would get involved and make sure that Götheborg can fulfill her full potential, both in the way she survives and sails, as a PR tool, and also that we continue to recognise her value as a vital part of our history, he adds.
Hamburg is the last stopover before Götheborg heads home to its home port Gothenburg to join the celebrations of the city's 400-year jubilee. After the jubilee Götheborg will be open to visitors in Gothenburg until the first weekend of September.
He wants other businesses to come onboard, figuratively and literally, and help support this venture. Because, the thing is, Björk points out, that until you’ve visited the ship you don’t realise how big she is. She is huge, and her potential is bigger than Greencarrier can handle alone.
Where the sailing expeditions in the 18th century put Sweden on the map, Greencarrier is doing so today. It’s an elegant and fun way to promote our ambitions of doing sustainable business and trade.
Whenever you send out invitations to meetings, we are oversubscribed with people who want to attend, no matter what the meeting is about. Say that about any other meeting in real life today.
It’s when she sails at sea, she’s doing what she’s made for and where her full potential is shown. That’s why I welcome and encourage other companies and partners to join the adventure with Götheborg. She’s a unique platform.
Yes, it's possible!
Greencarrier is a company that is built on commitment, involvement, humour and joy. Its company ethos is “Yes, it’s possible.” This fits well in with the ambition that surrounds Götheborg. From how divers investigated the original ship that sank just outside Gothenburg in 1745 to the start of the project to build a replica in scale 1:1 in 1993. Björk’s personal interest in this is obvious and it is clear that he admires the ambition and the drive that has realised the build. "Building it by hand without proper plans and then aiming to set sail for China, was something that I wanted to follow closely", he says.
A symbol for trade
Even before the opportunity to buy the ship presented itself, Greencarrier always saw the business potential in her. “We brought business representatives from Asia, our biggest market, to see the replica being built during several years. It was a way for us to tell our associates about how the Swedish East India Company used to sail ships like this to China, and how it was then, like now, an important market for us. These visits were always a success, because like me, our visitors were intrigued and thought it was fantastic that we were attempting to rebuild our history in an interesting way”, says Björk.
When asked if he sees similarities between Greencarrier and the Swedish East India Company, Björk says that the ship and The Swedish East India Company are historic symbols for trade: Where the sailing expeditions in the 18th century put Sweden on the map, Greencarrier is doing so today. "It’s an elegant and fun way to promote our ambitions of doing sustainable business and trade.”
What specifically does Greencarrier get out of owning Götheborg of Sweden?
Björk points to the obvious fact that she is a fantastic tool for PR. Whenever she sails into a port, people take notice. Salutes are fired, and she always draws a crowd. And that crowd, whether it be new business opportunities or just curious onlookers, are fantastic to interact with. Björk is a huge fan of people who bring optimism and enthusiasm, and he says that he sees that wherever the ship lands.
Ambassadors are always grateful and enthusiastic, he says, because as a small nation it can be hard to compete with bigger nations in terms of visibility. But when Götheborg arrives, with her large beautiful Swedish flag, then Sweden really becomes a talked-about nation. It’s also an obvious draw for the press, and that furthers Sweden as a nation and Greencarrier’s position as a company that invests in history, as well as the future through its work on sustainability.
Björk also points out that apart from anything, Götheborg of Sweden provides a unique place to meet. “For a logistics company, which in comparison with most other companies in this sector is small, the ship builds our image as a brave and interesting company better than any other tool could. Whenever you send out invitations to meetings, we are oversubscribed with people who want to attend, no matter what the meeting is about. Say that about any other meeting in real life today”, he says.
It’s a huge responsibility looking after Götheborg of Sweden, does that weigh heavy on Greencarrier at times?
She’s not only a huge wooden ship who needs a lot of care and attention, she is also symbolically very important. Björk says that she is expensive to run and maintain, and it isn’t viable for Greencarrier to continue to run her on their own for an infinite future. He wants other businesses to come onboard, figuratively and literally, and help support this venture. Because, the thing is, Björk points out, that until you’ve visited the ship you don’t realise how big she is. "She is huge, and her potential is bigger than Greencarrier can handle alone."
Sailing Europe in 2022
She set sail in 2022, heading for Europe and Asia. The European leg proved to be a fantastic five months for Götheborg. She sailed into 14 harbours and welcomed more than 60,000 visitors. “Again, the value of meeting with people in real life, making connections and opening up new business ventures for Greencarrier or Gothenburg, be it for logistics or tourism, was invaluable”, Björk points out. The idea was to head for China after the European leg, but China’s careful approach to welcoming visitors after COVID made Greencarrier think again. It would have been wonderful to set sail that far, but instead the expedition visited more ports in Europe. Björk says that it was his ambition to sail part of the way to China, but as it didn’t happen, he hopes to be onboard for one of the last trips of the European tour. He wants to feel what the sailers in the 18th century felt when only the wind was propelling the ship forward.
Gothenburg's 400-year jubilee
Now, the city of Gothenburg is preparing to celebrate 400 years, and so Götheborg will be setting sail so that she arrives home in time to start the celebrations, where she will shoot the salute to start the city’s celebration as she enters the harbour. “The ship will provide a unique opportunity to physically show an important part of the city’s history”, Björk says. He’s pleased that the ship will take pride of place in the city’s harbour.
What will happen after these festivities?
She’ll need a bit of care after the latest adventure. A wooden ship needs to be carefully maintained all the time, and so she will need to be checked over carefully. “It’s not like those big modern ships we use these days. Wooden ships will start to take on water at some point, and so we need to do overall maintenance every five years.”
And after that, we don’t know yet”, Björk says honestly. “During this summer, she will obviously maintain her pride of place in the Gothenburg harbour so that people can visit her, and so that businesses can rent her for events. There are many possibilities, but my ambition and hope is that Götheborg of Sweden will set sail again. It’s when she sails at sea, she’s doing what she’s made for and where her full potential is shown. That’s why I welcome and encourage other companies and partners to join the adventure with Götheborg. She’s a unique platform."
" When she is no longer fit to sail I hope that she will become a full-time museum preferably here in Gothenburg or in Guangzhou where the Swedish East India Company did so much trade. Hong Kong is also a possible home for her. I feel optimistic for her future,” Björk concludes.
A decision to proceed with inspections for 2024 has been made.
Are you interested in volunteering at Götheborg during our maintenance period? We are now looking for a few volunteers who have sailed with us recently and are willing to stay with us for 6-8 weeks.